Info Box: Q&A on Possibilities of Nuclear Use by Russia | Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned Western powers that any attack on Russia could trigger a nuclear response.

Will Putin use nukes? How many nuclear weapons does Putin really have? How will the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) react if Russia uses nuclear weapons? These questions and their answers are summarized below.

◎ Will Putin use nuclear weapons?

That will depend on how big the threat is that Mr. Putin sees it for the Russian state and his regime.

According to Putin’s definition, war in Ukraine is a fight for Russia’s survival against the West, which wants to destroy Russia and control its vast resources.

Mr Putin has warned the West that his statement that he is ready to use nuclear weapons is by no means a verbal threat. What some experts consider a “bluff” is being taken seriously by the US government.

Russia’s unilateral annexation of 18% of Ukraine to its territory has already increased the scope for nuclear use. Putin may see attacks on these areas as directed against Russia itself.

The basic doctrine of Russia’s nuclear strategy allows for a nuclear counterattack if Russia’s national survival is truly threatened, even in the case of a preemptive strike with conventional weapons.

“Putin is only threatening verbally for now,” said Yuri Fedorov, a Prague-based military expert. I can’t say for sure that it will happen.”

Asked by CBS if Putin was moving toward a nuclear attack, CIA director Byrnes told CBS: “I take this kind of threat very seriously because everything is at stake. I need it,” he said.

But Barnes said the US intelligence community had “no real evidence” that Putin was about to use tactical nuclear weapons immediately.

Will Putin use nukes? How many nuclear weapons does Putin really have? How will the US and NATO react if Russia uses nuclear weapons? We have summarized these questions and their answers. Putin’s photo. Taken in Moscow on 30 September. Photo provided (2022 Reuters/Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS)

◎Useable nuclear weapons

There is absolutely no voice within the Russian government encouraging the use of strategic nuclear weapons that can destroy cities in the United States, Russia, Europe and Asia.

Heikh Kadyrov of the Chechen Republic has said that Russia should use low-yield tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for “tactical” targets on the battlefield, and are far less effective than strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy major cities such as Moscow, Washington and London. Delivery launch vehicles range from aircraft to ground platforms, surface ships, submarines, and ground forces.

Russia has specialized nuclear forces trained to carry out missions on these apocalyptic battlefields, but it is not clear whether regular units, contract soldiers and conscripts are up to the task.

◎ The US response

As the major power, the United States would effectively decide what to do in the event of a nuclear attack by Russia.

Together, Russia and the United States have 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. These were accumulated during the Cold War, and Russia inherited its nuclear arsenal from the former Soviet Union.

The options that President Biden has include (1) non-military countermeasures, (2) counterattack with nuclear weapons, and (3) counterattack with conventional weapons. However, (2) risks increasing the use of nuclear weapons, and (3) could lead to direct war between the United States and Russia.

Former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus said that if Russia used its nuclear weapons, the US and NATO countries would destroy Russian forces and equipment in Ukraine and destroy the Navy Black.

◎ Comparison of nuclear warheads

According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Russia has the most nuclear weapons in the world with 5,977, followed by the United States with 5,428.

These include stockpiles and retired ones, but the US and Russia have warheads large enough to destroy the world several times over.

Russia has 1,458 warheads that can be launched instantly by intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers, while the United States has 1,389.

On the other hand, Russia has about 10 times more tactical nuclear weapons than the United States. About half of the 200 stockpiles in the US are located in Europe.

The destructive power of US tactical nuclear weapons can be adjusted from 0.3 to 170 kilotons of TNT equivalent. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 weighed around 15 kilotons.

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